Scotland’s triple F1 world champion Sir Jackie Stewart talks about overcoming dyslexia, cleaning windows and being beaten on the virtual circuit by his grandchildren.
Dyslexia was not recognised at my school. In those days there was no help for children with disabilities. I was called thick, stupid and dumb in front of the class. I left at 15 with no education. I could read very little. I still read very little. My lack of education is one of the tragedies of my life.
There are some very clever people who are dyslexic: Muhammad Ali, Richard Branson, Albert Einstein, Leonardo da Vinci. A lot of them are or were sportsmen or creative. They are all people who think outside the box.
God gave me a gift for co-ordination but my eye for detail is my best asset.
If I had not been a racing driver and made money out of that I’d have won championships cleaning windows. I wouldn’t stand for any scratches or blemishes. I am very good at seeing detail. I hate seeing smears on windows. It is the same with floors. Our house is always immaculate.
The unhappiest years of my life were in school. There are still a lot of children in Scotland suffering. Fifteen per cent of the population can’t read or write properly. You can’t ignore that. Every teacher is trained in how to identify and help kids. We are perhaps leaders in the world now. It is the responsibility of every government to provide proper education for every single child, whether they are well-off or not.
There is still this impression that only well-off kids can afford help, while poor kids can’t. That is where Dyslexia Scotland [of which Stewart is president] comes in. All should be given an equal opportunity. You need to be able to cope with the written word. Finally being diagnosed with dyslexia saved me from drowning.
I said: what is dyslexia? I thought about all those years of people telling me I was dumb and stupid – but I was dyslexic!
I say to people now: ‘You be nice to that young dyslexic child, because you might be working for them one day.’
Young people can practise good co-ordination with video games. But I’m not very good at it. I have played it with my grandchildren. They always win.
I listen to audio books a lot and I have a PA with me who helps with my diary and correspondence. I do enjoy reading sometimes. It is a huge relaxation for me; but I put so much into it, I can’t be distracted.
I have never been busier than I am with Dyslexia Scotland, as well as with business and motor sports. I have brought more money into motor sports than any other driver.
Formula One is the fastest-changing area of technology or industry – even the armed forces. But while the technology may change, F1 drivers are the same animals and are driven by the same desire for speed and challenge. The safety in motor sport is the best example of risk-management in the world. It is more than 20 years since we lost someone on the racing circuit.
Modern technology helps with safety, but we still have a long way to go. There is always something you can do to improve safety. You can never not move forward. You can never be complacent.
There is no reason a woman could not be a Grand Prix driver. It is just that women don’t grow up doing it. If they were doing it from the age of eight, they would have as much talent as you spot with the boys.